Utah passed 575 bills during legislative session with ‘historic’ levels of funding for state priorities

The Utah House of Representatives is shown during the final night of the Utah Legislature at the Utah State Capitol, Salt Lake City, Utah, March 3, 2023 | AP Photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Utah Legislature passed 575 bills during its 45-day general session this year, and even managed to conclude the session two hours before midnight.

Utah Gov. Spencer Cox speaks during a news conference at the state Capitol, Salt Lake City, Utah, March 3, 2023 | AP Photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

Gov. Spencer Cox and Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson lauded the work of the Legislature and declared it a “resounding success” in a press release issued soon after the legislative session ended. Counted among the lists accomplishments were “historic” levels of funding for education, housing, water conservation and infrastructure.

This is accompanied by a $400 million tax cut passed by the Legislature that could also see the sales tax on food removed if Utah residents choose to vote that way next year.

“We’re grateful to legislators and their families for their hard work and commitment to public service over the past 45 days,” Cox said in the press release. “The partnership legislators have with our administration has advanced our priorities and supported major initiatives that will benefit Utahns for generations. This is a landmark session that will shape our state’s future in incredibly positive ways.”

Budget wise, the state is working with an estimated $29 billion. Highlights include:

  • Around $400 million for water conservation efforts.
  • Education will see a near 20% increase this year with a combined $917 million in one-time and ongoing funds.
  • Nearly $200 million in new money for affordable housing and homelessness programs.
  • Over $2 billion is going toward infrastructure and transportation improvements,
  • The aforementioned $400 million in tax cuts.

Among the many water conservation-related bills passed were measures to help preserve the Great Salt Lake and calculating Utah’s water use in a way that is comparable to other Western states.

Facets of education will see “record funding,” according to the governor’s office, in the form of increased spending for students, teacher compensation and new school options for parents. Funding will also be provided for all-day kindergarten.

Bills regarding grants for first-time home buyers, homeless services and affordable housing also passed this year.

The Utah State Capitol is shown during the final day of the Utah Legislature, Salt Lake City, Utah, March 3, 2023 | AP Photo by Rick Bowmer, St. George News

When addressing the House and then the Senate following the official end of the general session around 9:30 p.m., Cox joked that his remarks weren’t quite ready due to how early the session had ended.

Typically, the business of debating and passing bills runs till the last minute on the final day of the general session.

Cox told the legislators to take a vacation as a reward for their hard work, yet also remember their poor governor who would be stuck reviewing the 575 bills that passed.

He has the next 20 days to review the bills and either choose wether to sign them, or veto. Bills left unsigned become law regardless of the governor’s signature. The following are summaries of coverage provided by St. George News during the Legislature’s 2023 general session:


The Legislature passed a $400 million tax cut during the final days of the Legislature with HB 54. The bill reduces the income tax from 4.85% to 4.65% while also providing states tax breaks for Social Security and unborn children and increases the earned income tax credit from 15% to 20% of the federal credit.

The bill also includes a measure that will repeal the state sales tax on food should Utah voters approve an amendment to the Utah Constitution in 2024. If passed by the voters, the repeal on the food tax would take effect at the start of 2025.

The Legislature voted to reduce the state tax on a gallon of gas while also imposing a tax on electric vehicle charging stations. This measure is meant to capture revenue from people with electric vehicles passing through the state. This measure also increases vehicle registration fees by $7. This bill passed the Legislature on Thursday.

Water conservation

In this file photo, Quail Creek Reservoir on a cold, windy day, Hurricane, Utah, Jan. 25, 2023 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

In order to count water use in a way similar to other Western states, the Legislature passed SB 119. The measure will have select water districts in the state – including the Washington County Water Conservancy Distrust – implement a new way to calculate water use.

A bill creating the “Utah Water Ways” program was also passed by the Legislature. It creates a nonprofit partnership that coordinates messaging regarding water use and conservation across the state. The nonprofit will also help coordinate grants for water efficiency and conservation programs. It will also accept private donations to help move that work ahead.

A bill from Sen. Evan Vickers of Cedar City changes state code to allow for the better management regarding the recharge of groundwater aquifers as previous language in the statute was deemed to be unnecessarily prohibitive. SB 53 passed the Legislature in early February.

More money is being provided from the state to local water districts to apply to local turf-replacement programs implemented last year with the passing of SB 118. Money used for the program is to be used as an incentive for households to remove grass and replace it with water-efficient landscaping instead.


Legislation declaring the state a “Second Amendment sanctuary” passed the Legislature. Under HB 219, the state “and its political subdivisions (counties and municipalities) will not enforce federal regulations that purport to restrict or ban certain firearms, ammunition, or firearms accessories.”

Stock image | Photo by Bytmonas/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

Sponsored by Rep. Karianne Lisonbee and cosponsored by Sen. Evan Vickers, HB 219 declares the stare will not supplies money or manpower to federal agencies to enforce what may be perceived as anti-Second Amendment policy. However, this does not include preexisting federal firearm statutes or related regulation that is already a part of Utah law.

Lisonbee also sponsored other firearms-related bills. HB 107 will waive fees for conceal carry permits for school employees. HB 120 brings state law into compliance with federal law and allows an individual originally convicted of a misdemeanor-level crime involving domestic violence, yet has had their conviction reduced or expunged through a court order or pardon, to no longer be counted as a “restricted individual” in relation to owning a firearm. Both bills have passed the Legislature.

HB 226, sponsored by Rep. Cory Maloy, creates a voluntary background check system for private firearms sales in the state. The bill gives the seller and the buyer the option to check an online system showing whether the gun being sold has been reported stolen and if the person buying the gun has a valid conceal carry permit. This bill also passed the Legislature.

Another firearms-related bill that passed the Legislature requires police agencies to run a background check before releasing a gun from evidence, in order to confirm the individual is not restricted from owning one.

HB 300, which also passed the Legislature, modifies existing law that allows an individual to request that authorities temporarily add them to a restricted persons list that removes their ability to buy or possess firearms due to concerns of self-harm and suicidal ideation.


Of the many election-related bills that hit the Legislature this year, among those that passed was HB 347. It increases the criminal penalty for tampering with a ballot drop box from a class A misdemeanor to a third-degree felony. A bill requiring Utah’s primary and general elections to be audited every other year for reasons of election integrity also passed.


In this file photo, crossing guard Elizabet Tapia at the crosswalk by Little Valley Elementary School, which is considered to be the busiest crosswalk in St. George, Utah, Oct. 11, 2021 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

HB 215 allows $6,000 in compensation to teachers each and $8,000 to each student who is homeschooled or in a charter school. This is done through a state voucher program and creates the Utah Fits All Scholarship Program. Despite controversy surrounding the bill, it passed the Legislature and was signed by Gov. Spencer Cox during the first weeks of the session.

HB 61 creates a school security task force with a state security chief position within Department of Public Safety. It also requires firearm detection software which must be used at all primary and secondary schools with an appointed school specialist. The bill passed the Legislature and was sponsored by Rep. Ryan Wilcox and Sen. Don Ipson.

HB 136 would have required school districts or local education agencies to have a school route safety commission that evaluates school routes and makes recommendations for improvements needed along those routes. This would have impacted students who reside within 1.5 to 2 miles of the school. The bill passed the House but did not receive a final vote in the Senate.

HB 163 allows student athletes in Utah to wear head gear or other religious clothing as part of their athletic uniforms. The bill also requires club sports that play in schools to make similar concessions. Rep. Candice Pierucci sponsored the bill after members of the Islam and Sikh communities contacted her and asked her to pursue a bill, based on religious freedom, that allows believers to adapt uniforms for religious or modesty purposes. The bipartisan bill passed the Legislature and is expected to be signed into law by the governor.

SB 103 allows high school graduates to wear religious or cultural regalia during graduation ceremonies alongside their cap and gown. It unanimously passed both houses of the Legislature has been sent to the governor’s desk for signing.

Hydrogen development

HB 62 passed the Legislature and establishes a hydrogen advisory council within the Office of Energy Development in an effort to guide the state’s future hydrogen-related policies.

Native Americans

Utah Attorney General Reyes met with Tribal Leaders from the state’s eight tribes to discuss HB 40 at the state capital, Salt Lake City, Utah, Jan. 31, 2023 | Photo courtesy of the Navajo Nation Council Delegation, St. George News

HB 40, which failed to advance beyond the House, focused on preventing Native American children form being taken from their tribes and families unnecessarily. The bill is a state-level take on the federal Indian Child Welfare Act which provides preference to Indigenous families in adoption proceedings and foster care involving Native American children. It also requires child welfare agencies help Native American families with reunification. Among the bill’s supporters was the Utah Attorney General’s Office.

Short-term rentals

HB 291 would have created an optional pilot program for counties and cities on how best to regulate short-term rentals and provide incentives for short-term rental operators conducting business under the radar to “come into the light,” as stated by Rep. Calvin Musselman, the bill’s sponsor. Voicing opposition to the bill during a Feb. 28 Senate committee hearing was the St. George Lodging and Tourism Association. HB 291 was held by the committee per the sponsor’s request for additional study.

Business and economy

HB 408 has the state regulating vehicle-based mobile businesses – such as a mobile barber shop, clothing store of book vendor – the same way it regulates food trucks. The bill, which passed both chambers of the Legislature unanimously, allows a mobile business operator to only be required to get a business license in their municipality or county of origin and only be subject to inspections and regulations related to the product or service they offer.

Social media

HB 152 and HB 311 both passed he Legislature and seek to curb the harmful impact social media is said to have on minors. HB 152 would require minors to get parental consent to sign up for social media, which in turn requires social media companies to require age verification for all users in Utah. HB 311 seeks to ban the use of algorithms designed to get minors addicted to social media use. The bills are set to take effect March 1, 2024.

Criminal justice

The purpose of HB 146 is to clear up confusion for law enforcement when responding to calls regarding registered sex offenders in public places. The bill makes it a crime for a convicted sex offender to access public places such as swimming pools, recreation rooms and park facilities in apartment complexes and homeowners associations. Previously, the law only banned registered offenders from public pools and parks. HB 146 was signed into law by the governor on Feb. 27.

A 2019 file photo for illustrative purposes of Washington City Police officers responding to Red Hills Drive, Washington City, Utah, Feb. 21, 2019 | File photo courtesy of the Washington City Police Department, St. George News

Another bill regarding sex offenders, HB 122, states those convicted of attempt, solicitation, and conspiracy to commit certain human trafficking offenses as qualifications for Utah’s Department of Corrections sexual offender registry. The bill passed both the House and Senate on Feb. 14 and is currently awaiting signature from the governor.

With a goal to protect children, a bill that hopes to clarify the terms of custodial interference and kidnapping has passed both the Senate and the House and is on its way to the governor’s desk. HB 143 makes it a crime for a parent without visitation rights or custody to interfere with the custody of a child.

SB 156 better known as the “Sherry Black bill,” creates requirements for law enforcement when searching DNA testing databases based on voluntary genetic testing. The bill is colloquially named after Sherry Black, a bookstore owner who was murdered in South Salt Lake in 2010. The bill passed the Legislature on Wednesday.

HB 115 would have required clergy in a confessional situation to be mandatory reporters of abuse and neglect. And failure to do so could result in criminal charges. The House Rules Committee read the proposal in January, but it went no further.

The reverberations from an October trial where a St. George jury acquitted two activists of burglary, after they removed two sick piglets from a Beaver County pig farm, was felt in the legislature this session. Both houses passed the Theft Defense Amendments bill, HB 114, which the sponsors said closes a loophole and changes the Utah Criminal Code to say that it is not a defense to take livestock from an owner if it is sick, injured or a liability to their owner.

Gov. Cox has expressed support for the bill.

SB 86, which passed the Legislature, removes fentanyl test strips from laws banning the use of drug paraphernalia. The bill is designed to protect drug users from unknowingly ingesting fentanyl.

Nicole Schmidt, mother of Gabby Petito, takes a moment during a press conference for SB117, a bill advocating for domestic violence protections, at the Capitol in Salt Lake City, Jan. 30, 2023 | Photo by Ryan Sun/The Deseret News/Associated Press, St. George News

HB 195 would have mandated school employees under criminal investigation be put on administrative leave with pay. If found guilty they would have been made to return any administrative leave paid. The bill passed the House but failed to pass the Senate.

SB 117 is a bill requiring police agencies to conduct “lethality assessments” which involve a series of questions authorities ask in order to determine if a domestic violence situation could turn fatal. The law passed the Legislature and was in response the murder of Gabby Petito who was killed by her boyfriend. The bill had the support from Petito’s family and Lt. Gov. Deirdre Henderson, whose cousin was killed in a murder-suicide incident in that took place in Enoch in January.

“This year will have a transformative and positive impact on victims of domestic violence in Utah,” Henderson said in a statement.

Free speech protections

SB 18 straightens Utah’s anti-SLAPP laws against lawsuits aimed at intimidating people from exercising their freedom of speech in the public square. Former St. George Rep. Lowry Snow helped craft the bill as a part of the Uniform Law Commission. SB 18 passed the Legislature in early January and awaits the governor’s signature.

Outdoor recreation

HB 93 increases the funding for the Restoration Infrastructure Grant Program from 5% to 15% of the outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Account. The bill passed the Legislature.

HB 224 would create a Recreation Coordinated Investment Initiative under the Utah Division of Outdoor Recreation to “manage, maintain, expand, restore and improve outdoor recreation infrastructure to address increased usage and to minimize overcrowding or overuse,” according to the bill’s text. This bill also passed the Legislature. You can read more about both laws here.

Stock image | Photo by Sara Edwards/iStock/Getty Images Plus, St. George News

HB 384 alters the make up of the Outdoor Adventure Commission to add a coordinator for the off-highway vehicle program and a coordinator for the boating program from the Division of Outdoor Recreation. It appropriates funds from the Outdoor Adventure Infrastructure Restricted Account for outdoor recreation. For instance, 53% of funding would be appropriated to the Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Outdoor recreation for larger infrastructure projects. This bill has also passed the Legislature and is on its way to the governor’s desk.

Magic mushrooms, kidney health and vaccination passports

A bill that would have launched a pilot program to allow the use of psychedelic mushrooms for therapeutic use, SB 200, sponsored by Sen. Luz Escamilla, of Salt Lake City, failed to advance in the state Senate, effectively ending its chances of passage as the legislative session adjourns for the year.

HB 142, which would have established the first-ever state-sponsored Kidney Health Task Force, made it out of the House Health and Human Services Committee but was defeated on the House floor in a 45-24 vote. Rep. Mark Wheatley sponsored the bill.

In the second try in two years, the Legislature agreed to a bill by St. George Republican Rep. Walt Brooks that, if signed by the governor, will make it illegal in Utah for public entities like businesses and government agencies to restrict people and employees based on their vaccination status for any disease. There are exemptions in HB 131 where medical facilities, hospitals, schools and universities can still impose such restrictions.

New state flag, mushroom and crustacean

Senate Bill 31, which officially adopts a new state flag, passed in the Utah House on March 2 by a vote of 40-35. It then went back to the Senate for another vote, since it had been amended in the interim, and passed. The measure now moves to the desk of Gov. Spencer Cox, who is expected to sign it. It takes effect next year.

Proposed design for Utah’s new state flag, as designated in SB31, first substitute, passed by the state Senate in Salt Lake City, Utah on Jan. 30, 2023 | Image courtesy of Utah State Legislature, St. George News

As previously reported, when the state flag bill was first passed by the Senate on Jan. 30, an amendment was made that changed the star below the beehive from an eight-pointed star to a five-pointed one. Then, one month later, after much discussion, in a concession to those who wanted to keep the current state flag that has been in use since 1911, another substitution was made that designates that flag as the “historic flag” and allows for it to continue to be used.

HB 92 designated the porcini mushroom as Utah’s state mushroom while HB 137 named the brine shrimp as the Utah state crustacean. Both bills passed during the final week of the legislative session.

Not for kids public notice

Spurred on by concerns left in the wake of the HBO “We’re Here” drag show held in St. George last summer, St. George Rep. Colin Jack introduced HB 329. The bill would have required a subdivision of the state – the state, a county, municipality or university – to issue a public notice for parents if an approved event held on public property had adult themes. While the bill passed the House and a Senate committee, it failed to be heard on the Senate floor before the legislative session ended.


HB 221 allows hydroponic fodder systems to qualify for the Agricultural Resource Development Loan Program. The bill has passed the Legislature.


SB 16 bans transgender surgeries for children under 18, in addition to restricting puberty blockers and hormonal treatments for minors. It passed both chambers in the early days of the Legislative session and was signed by Gov. Spencer Cox on Jan. 28.

LGBTQ advocates did pick up a win, however, with the subsequent passage of HB 228, which prohibits health care practitioners from using “conversion therapy” on minors to try to change their sexual orientation or gender identity. That bill passed unanimously in both chambers and now awaits the governor’s signature.

Also passed were SB100, which protects a parent’s access to their child’s school records and other information, including gender identity, and SB93, which sets forth provisions and requirements under which a change may be made to a child’s sex on a birth certificate.


Annabel Sheinberg, from Planned Parenthood, speaks during a news conference Wednesday, March 1, 2023, in Salt Lake City, to discuss the bills being considered by state legislature that would limit abortion access in Utah. (Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

HB 467 passed the Legislature despite protests from abortion advocates. The bill bans abortion clinics in the Utah by 2024 and limits abortions to hospitals with strict guidelines. The governor has expressed support for the bill and has said he will sign it.

The Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, which operates three of the four abortion clinics in the state, issued a statement in opposition to the bill, and said “it is committed to ensuring that Utahns and all people can get abortion when they need it, and we will continue to do all we can to protect and maintain access to that care. Planned Parenthood Association of Utah is considering all options in response to ongoing extremist efforts to end abortion in the state.”

Alcohol policy

HB 100, which would have beer delivery legal to citizens of drinking age at their residences by state-authorized vendors, was introduced Jan. 17 but went no further. Rep. Joe Briscoe sponsored the bill.

The state also passed an alcohol policy bill that creates new liquor licenses for bars and restaurants, allows restaurants a special license to host private parties where alcohol can be served provided there is an opaque wall between the party and the rest of the restaurant’s patrons, and banned mini-bottles.

License plates

HB 26 tweaks the process for new special group licenses, effectively ending bills that would establish new specialty plates in the future. However, any specialty plates previously approved by the Legislature will be grandfathered in as acceptable specialty plates. The bill passed the Legislature earlier this week.

New holiday recognized

SB 46 aims to recognize that state’s growing Hindu, Sikh and Jain communities by acknowledging one of their biggest holidays – Diwali. The five-day festival of Diwali, also known as Festival of Lights, celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, knowledge over ignorance and good over evil. It is based on the Hindu lunisolar month of Kartik and typically falls during the last week of October or the first week of November. While the bill passed the Legislature, a provision allowing fireworks to accompany the holiday was removed.

Winter Olympics

HB 460 and HRC 8 passed unanimously and were signed by the governor. This legislation provides financial guidelines for the state’s effort to secure a Winter Olympics bid. Rep. Jon Hawkins and Sen. Mike McKell sponsored each of these bills, respectively.

St. George News evening editor Vin Cappiello and reporters Alysha Lundgren, Chris Reed, Cody Blowers, E. George Goold, Haven Scott, Jeff Richards, Jessi Bang, Layce Lundy, Nick Yamashita and Stephanie DeGraw, along with the Associated Press and KSL.com, contributed to this article.

Check out all of St. George News’ coverage of the 2023 Utah Legislature here.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2023, all rights reserved.

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